Monday, November 30, 2015
Sometimes content marketers forget that content isn’t only a game for wordsmiths.
In fact, there’s a thriving community of visual content creators who have built robust businesses around what they do. And one of the most scaleable ways to do that is to craft high-quality premium WordPress themes.
But there’s a lot more to it than “build something beautiful and the customers will show up.”
In this post, I want to talk about what it takes to succeed as a WordPress theme designer in today’s environment.
Once upon a time, all WordPress themes were free. The robust open-source CMS (content management system) attracted enthusiasts of all kinds, who made themes that looked good and suited different tastes.
Today, WordPress has grown to power a quarter of the world’s websites — and premium (paid) themes are the norm for professionals, businesses, serious bloggers, and even passionate hobbyists.
That wealth of premium themes poses a new challenge for designers: the sheer number of great-looking themes out there. There’s more competition than ever, and a lot of them are gorgeous
But : there’s still room for someone with solid design skills to make a name (and a great business) as a theme designer. And it starts by thinking as a business owner first.
Here are five points of focus on your path to building your premium theme empire …
#1: Business know-how
No matter what kind of digital business you might want to build — and WordPress themes fall squarely into this category — you can’t ignore the business part.
You may think of yourself as a design professional who “isn’t into the whole business thing.” But business is just a set of skills that can be learned — and upgrading those skills can open the door to making a great living doing what you love.
Sites like Digital Commerce Institute and podcasts like Unemployable and Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer can help you pick up the core business skills you need — without compromising your integrity or making you feel like a creep.
In my experience, 90% of business ability is mindset. Once you get your head in the right space, you’ll be able to readily pick up the skills you need to make your business a success. You might also choose to partner with smart people who will complement your strengths.
#2: A targeted audience
Because it’s beautiful is no longer enough to find an audience for your WordPress theme.
Themes today need to solve specific problems for well-defined groups of people.
In other words, it’s not only about design — it’s about design thinking.
Virtually any type of business you can think of needs beautiful, thoughtfully designed themes.
- Real estate professionals
- Law offices
- Medical offices
- Artisans and “small batch” producers
- Coffee shops
- Online publishers
- … you name it!
Successful theme designers today know precisely who will be using their themes. And they use smart design thinking to solve real-world problems with those themes.
If you build themes for a particular group, decide how you’ll uncover that group’s needs and desires. If you’re not a member of that community yourself, work closely with the types of folks who will be using your theme, so you can come up with innovative and elegant solutions to their needs.
“Niching” down your offer this way might seem like it would narrow your audience of buyers — but in fact, it opens all kinds of doors to reach the right buyers.
#3: A way to reach that audience
It’s not enough to build a gorgeous solution to the needs of a well-defined audience — you have to be able to get the word out!
The web today provides incredibly focused tools for targeted advertising to precisely the kinds of buyers you’re looking for.
You can also partner with well-known experts in that space. For example, you might work with a popular blogger who has the audience you’re trying to reach.
And if you build your frame within an established “ecosystem” (like Genesis, which we’ll talk a bit more about in the next point), you get the benefit of a community looking for the solutions you have to offer.
#4: A commitment to security and clean code
WordPress sites are astonishingly common. MarketingLand reports that WordPress powers about 25% of all of the sites published on the web around the globe.
In fact, its next two closest competitors (Drupal and Joomla) power fewer than 5% of the planet’s websites — combined.
WordPress is robust, it’s amazingly flexible, and it’s everywhere.
And because it’s so popular, a WordPress theme that ignores security best practices can find itself vulnerable to hackers. Which is no fun at all for your buyers, or your reputation.
Fortunately, there are excellent tools available to manage security and protect the themes you create.
If you don’t want to become a full-time security expert, one simple way to address the problem is to design themes on a framework that’s doing the performance and security heavy lifting for you.
Our company builds one of the best-regarded frameworks in the WordPress community (if we do say so ourselves …), Genesis.
The “back end” (that means all of those behind-the-scenes technical elements) of the Genesis framework is reviewed thoroughly and frequently by security and performance experts. We make sure that all of the code is keeping up with best practices … and with updates in WordPress itself.
Security is just one benefit of building your theme on a reliable framework — but that’s a topic for another article.
#5: An eye for trends and beautiful design
You might have thought this one would come first! And of course, no one wants a premium theme that doesn’t look great and feel fresh and current.
Great designers know that beauty matters — but it’s only one element of great design.
In addition to your great eye for gorgeous site design, make sure you’re incorporating:
- A solid business mindset
- Theme design that solves meaningful problems for a well-defined market
- Effective communication with the audience you’re serving
- Serious security to keep your customers’ sites safe from the bad guys
Pull these elements together, and you might find that designing WordPress themes becomes the foundation of an amazing business.
Want to know more about the life of a premium theme designer?
The founder of StudioPress and creator of Genesis, Brian Gardner, will be the subject of a webinar inside of Digital Commerce Academy on December 2 where he will share his insights on how he built his WordPress-based business.
Brian wasn’t a technical guy — he has no formal education in programming or computers. In fact, when he started playing with WordPress themes, he was a project manager for an architectural firm.
He calls himself an “accidental entrepreneur,” following his interests where they led. And where they led was a genuinely disruptive innovation — the creation of the premium WordPress theme market. That’s because Brian was the first person to actually offer a WordPress theme and take money for it.
Join us for this live conversation with Brian (he will take questions at the end). We’ll be talking about:
- How the premium WordPress theme market has changed over the last half decade
- Expert tips for anyone who wants to create a theme
- How to know what will sell (without guessing)
- The biggest mistakes Brian made, and how he overcame them
- The invaluable lesson about relationship building that Brian learned by working at a convenience store
Plus, much more.
To attend this webinar live (or to view the replay), all you have to do is activate your membership to Digital Commerce Academy.
And attend Wednesday’s case study webinar with Brian Gardner
We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee with all Digital Commerce Academy memberships, so we invite you to check out this event and peruse the other content inside before you make any long-term commitments.
We’ll see you there!
The post How to Build a Lucrative Business with Premium WordPress Themes appeared first on Copyblogger.
Some jobs are easy to define and prepare for:
Want to be an engineer? Go to school and get an engineering degree.
Want to code for Google? Go to school and study computer science.
What do you do when you want to be a content marketer?
Go to school and study content marketing? Hmm…there doesn’t seem to be a program for that, please try again.
Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to study general business or marketing, but that’s not enough either. You’ll end up learning many things you don’t really need and not learning those you do need.
All the top content marketers I know have a wide variety of useful skills that closely relate to content marketing.
This is largely out of necessity.
Content marketing—the modern version of it—didn’t really become popular until the last few years.
And while the future looks bright for content marketers of today, who knows if the subject will ever make its way to mainstream education.
If you really want to be a great content marketer, there’s only one place for you to get your education:
The real world.
There is very little barrier to entry, which means you can jump in the deep end immediately and start learning.
You’ve likely already started your content marketing education but might be looking for information on how to take the next steps.
Well, there are 6 skills that I believe all great content marketers need.
I’m going to tell you what they are and go into detail about why they are important and how you can develop them.
1. A love for data analysis sets you apart
Many writers have transitioned to content marketing in the past few years.
They have many of the skills I’m going to go over, but they commonly lack this one.
Being able to tell a story is good, but it’s what you do with that story that really matters.
The content in “content marketing” needs to be created for a purpose. And the only way to know whether that purpose is being fulfilled and goals are being met (or progressed upon) is to look at the data.
A great content marketer is a lover of both content and numbers, which is a rare package.
A great content marketer is results-based: It starts with knowing that you need a way of measuring your results.
To do this, you need to understand the role of metrics in a business. These metrics are also being called key performance indicators (KPIs).
Metrics are a way of describing goals.
If your goal is to increase readership, the metrics you’ll be concerned with are traffic and subscribers.
You can monitor metrics over time to see if you are making progress. If the progress is too slow, you can test different approaches and look at the metrics to see if they are working.
Although every content marketing plan has its own goals, there are a few metrics that are important in nearly every scenario.
You’ll notice that those metrics cover numbers both before and after a sale.
The most common purpose of content marketing is to improve sales, so you’d better see an increase in revenue if you’re doing it right.
Data collection and analysis are the basic skills a content marketer needs: The first step is realizing that metrics are a necessary part of business.
You don’t need to obsess over them, but you do need to make sure you know how to track and analyze them.
Tracking is very simple.
Know how to install something like Google Analytics or KISSmetrics.
Analytics software not only tracks your readers’ behavior but also provides you with a dashboard for quickly organizing and analyzing it.
The first big obstacle content marketers need to overcome is learning how to use the analytics software.
You can find tutorials online to help with this, but the simplest way is to simply play around with it yourself and look through different tabs and settings.
The second obstacle is much larger.
You need to learn how to analyze that data.
You can get the basics of this pretty quickly:
- choose your metrics
- look at them over a valid time period
- assess whether the metrics have improved or worsened
The hard part is knowing how to analyze data properly.
Really good content marketers know how to look at the situation, conduct very specific tests, and segment the analytics data to provide meaningful information.
Often, new marketers will make decisions based on analytics, but they don’t look at the right set of users.
For example, if you had two versions of a blog layout and saw that one had a better time on-page, you might conclude that it’s better.
However, it’s possible that it’s really not if you dig into things like:
- returning visitors
- time of week
It may turn out that the second page performs better in all browsers except Internet Explorer.
That would lead you to investigate why that is, and you’d probably find out that it’s not showing up correctly. Fixing the errors would change the results of your experiment.
By having more experience and knowledge, that content marketer may have just made his or her business tens of thousands of dollars. Repeat that over the course of several years, and you see why a good content marketer is worth a lot.
This is a skill that needs to be developed through experience or mentorship by an expert. There are no shortcuts, e.g., you can’t just read a blog post about it and become an expert.
Every marketer should be able to do basic A/B testing: I’ve already mentioned testing a few times.
While there are a few types of experiments you can run, the most basic is an A/B split test.
First, you should understand what split tests are and why they are valuable.
They allow you to test two different versions of content to see which one leads to better metrics.
Split-testing is very useful for gaining continual small improvements in metrics such as conversion rate.
These small improvements add up to impressive results over time.
Second, you need to know how to run split tests and analyze the results.
Fortunately, it’s very simple now with modern software.
If you want a more detailed look at running a split test, you can refer to my guide on conversion optimization. Otherwise, there are just a few main steps.
First, you’ll need to pick a piece of software to help set up the test and track the results. For example, you can use Optimizely.
Then, you’ll need to create a hypothesis for a test.
The best split testers know how to test something that is likely to have a big impact on the metric you’re trying to improve.
These aren’t usually pulled out of thin air. Instead, they are determined based on analyzing analytics and user behavior data.
Software like Crazy Egg can show you how visitors use your website. You can use that information to make an educated guess about how to improve the clarity of your content.
Finally, you’ll need to determine a significant sample size and collect data. Most types of software do this for you nowadays.
At the end, you pick the winner and start again.
It will be a big benefit to understand the statistics behind split testing to spot mistakes and set up useful tests.
If you’ve never taken a statistics class, you can take one online free.
There are many, but here are two popular classes:
It’s not mandatory, but it’s a nice asset to have.
2. Research is the key to any type of marketing
One of the most important but overlooked skills a content marketer can have is the ability to conduct research.
That’s a pretty broad term.
It covers everything related to discovering and understanding a topic.
With respect to content marketing, there are a few main reasons why your ability to research effectively is so important.
Reason #1 – To understand your customer: If you want to be a good content marketer, you need to understand the type of reader you’re trying to attract.
If you don’t, you can’t produce content that they will be interested in.
You won’t be able to write about the right topics, and you won’t know how your readers enjoy consuming the information.
If you don’t research your target reader and understand them, you’re basically just guessing what they might like.
It can still work, but be prepared to produce hundreds of pieces of content until you learn what works.
Or do some research, and get it right the first time. Clients don’t want to pay you for months on end while you figure things out by trial and error.
So, how do you actually research your reader and customer?
There are tons of ways.
And there are no wrong answers.
You might start by paying attention to what readers are saying in the comments of your, or your competitor’s, website.
Answer questions like:
- what do they like about the content?
- what don’t they like?
- what other subjects are they interested in?
- what kind of job/life do they have (readers will often tell you)?
Or you can hunt down small niche forums and spend time digging into threads:
This is a great way to find out about their problems, which make great content ideas.
Or you can research demographic data using sites like Alexa.
Demographics are a key part of building a reader profile.
These are three of many options.
Great content marketers keep digging until they have as clear of a picture of their reader as possible.
They do this before they ever start writing.
An hour of research here might save several hours of work in the future.
Research #2 – To understand your product: Selling products isn’t an accident. You need to have a plan to effectively sell anything with content marketing.
Many inexperienced content marketers will say, “I’ll worry about the product later,” and focus on just producing content.
BIG mistake. Why?
Because when you do that, you don’t ensure that your product matches your audience’s needs.
This is called product-market fit.
Instead, you need to figure out how your content should relate to and add to the promotion of any products you sell.
This is where research comes in.
There are two main scenarios that you’ll need to be comfortable in.
The first is when you’re hired by a company that already sells a product. You need to research the product and understand what it does (and sometimes how it does it).
Pretend I hired you to manage the Crazy Egg blog. How could you do it without understanding the product?
You wouldn’t be able to create product tutorials or content that features the software until you get familiar with it:
While that’s far from the only content produced on the blog, it’s a type of content that plays an important role in the sales process.
The other scenario is when you don’t have a product yet.
Research is even more important in this case.
You’ll need to find out which products your audience will pay for and potentially how to create those products as well.
Finally, and most importantly, a great content marketer knows how to research content topics.
You need to know what you’re talking about in order to write a high quality article.
This involves knowing how to look up high quality journal articles as well as other resources:
It also involves spending the time understanding those resources.
If you’re writing about advanced topics, this takes considerable persistence, and many weak content marketers will simply find a lower quality resource instead.
Great content marketers aren’t lazy.
Reason #3 – To solve problems independently: The final main reason why research is an important skill for content marketers to have is because without it, you’ll often get stuck.
Content marketers will always be faced with questions and problems:
- What should I write about?
- What’s the best format for this content?
- How do I create this form of content?
- I don’t understand this topic, so what do I do?
Let me give you a realistic scenario…
Let’s say you’re keeping up with the latest SEO posts, and you see this filter before a list of tools on Backlinko:
And you think: “A filter like that would really improve a piece of content I’m working on.”
Here’s the problem: there’s no simple plugin to do it for you.
So, what then? Most will give up. A great content marketer, however, will dig in and figure it out.
Now, most content marketers don’t know how to create one of their own. However, the best will find someone who can make one.
They’ll head over to Odesk or Upwork and create a job posting for a developer.
(That’s not a relevant posting to this problem, by the way.)
The big difference between a good and bad content marketer is persistence.
Great marketers will keep researching until they find the answer to their problem. That’s what makes them stand out from everyone else.
3. Content takes many forms; being able to create it starts with writing
Although content marketing is a niche of marketing, it’s still fairly broad.
Content can take many different forms:
- text posts
- slide shows
While it’s good to know how to create all types of content, they all, to some degree, involve writing.
Even making videos requires you to produce a script.
As you also know, most content marketing is done in the form of blog posts—typically text- and image-based content.
There are a few skills that go into being a good writer (and content marketer).
Skill #1 – Basic writing ability: There’s a common misconception about what it takes to be a “great writer” (at least when it comes to web content).
No, you don’t need to be able to write an essay like you were taught in school.
No, you don’t need to have an extensive vocabulary with tons of fancy words in it.
In reality, great writing for most situations is very simple. As long as you can write while following basic grammar and have enough of a vocabulary to express your ideas, you’re fine.
Basic writing ability also includes a few more things.
Research, as we talked about before, is one.
In addition, do you know how to use the writing tools at your disposal? Can you work in MS Word or Google Docs and know how to format your content?
Can you then take that post and format it in a major content management system such as WordPress and Drupal?
No, it’s not difficult, but you still need to know how to do these things.
If you don’t, spend a bit of time Googling and learning how to make the most of modern writing tools.
Skill #2 – Being able to write persuasively: When everyone has the same basic writing tools (that we just went over), how do great writers stand out?
Using the same words doesn’t mean you’ll have the same message. The words you choose will have a large effect on how interesting your content is to read.
You want to be able to write persuasively and conversationally:
Writing persuasively begins and ends with how well you understand your reader.
If you know exactly how they think, you can guide them from one thought to another until they reach a conclusion that provokes action.
This takes practice, and the more you write, the better you’ll get.
Additionally, you want to write conversationally.
It’s not complicated. There are only two main aspects:
- Use first and second person pronouns - e.g., “you”, “us”, “your”, “we.”
- Use the reader’s language – use the same words they do to describe their problems.
You can see that writing persuasively and writing conversationally overlap because to be good at both, you need to understand your readers’ language.
Skill #3 – Being able to come up with the right kind of ideas: There are some fantastic writers out there who make poor content marketers.
While they can write well when given a topic (or guidance on which topics are best), they struggle to see how it all fits together.
It’s not enough to come up with ideas to write about. You have to come up with content ideas that address readers at each step of the buying process.
In addition, you need to take interesting angles on each topic so that people actually would want to read them.
Let’s look at an example.
If you follow multiple marketing blogs, you’ve seen several posts on video marketing in the last few months.
These are typically along the lines of “X tips on using video marketing effectively.”
A post like that doesn’t have an angle to it. There’s no hook.
Instead, I wrote a post titled “4 Clever Ways Videos Can Help You Attract Customers”.
My readers are smart. They don’t want to do video marketing for the sake of it; they want to do it to achieve a result.
So, I took an angle on this topic. I showed how videos can be used to get more customers.
That’s something readers are actually interested in.
Skill #4 – Being able to write efficiently: Finally, it’s worth noting that the best content marketers are able to crank out high quality posts on a regular basis without burning out.
They can only do this by writing fast.
They’ve all developed a process that works for them, and it’s something that you’ll have to do as well.
If you’re a slow writer, read how you can double your writing speed.
One final note about this is that it will take time.
Everyone is a slow writer when they start. At that point, focusing on quality is most important.
Once you have a handle on that, then start focusing on producing content at a faster and more consistent rate.
4. The world of marketing will always change: those who adapt will survive
If you look at the great content marketers of today, you’ll notice something.
They were great marketers a few years ago although they might have had a different title.
All industries evolve over time and shift to new areas.
When a shift occurs, usually over a few years, everyone has a decision to make:
Should I adapt?
Some never make it and fall into obscurity.
There are still SEOs who are preaching tactics from the early 2000s that are no longer effective.
They never adapted to the changes in the SEO industry because they were afraid of losing what they had gained.
But the people you see who stay consistently at the top of their fields are always looking to learn about the “next thing.”
They adapt no matter what the circumstances are.
What this means to you as a content marketer: Content marketing, as we define it today, is still relatively young.
It’s only going to grow in the foreseeable future.
However, that doesn’t mean it won’t change.
Content marketing itself will continue to evolve. It’s up to you to always keep learning and improving your skill set.
Many poor content marketers know how to implement only one tactic or strategy successfully.
However, that’s not enough. A single tactic or strategy will never work in all situations. Also, it may not work in the future.
The best content marketers right now know how to use a wide variety of tactics and strategies depending on the situation (client, niche, resources, etc.).
They are also continually testing new ones to stay ahead of everyone else.
For you, this means that you need to keep learning.
When you find something that works, by all means use it. However, don’t think that you “figured it all out.”
5. No time should be wasted waiting, which is why you need to be a jack-of-all-trades
There’s one more area that I think will continue to become more important.
And it doesn’t contain just one skill, but a few different ones.
I’m talking about two in particular:
These are “accessory skills.” You don’t need them to be a great content marketer.
However, they will help.
There are two main benefits of having some skill in either of these (you don’t need to be an expert).
First, it will save you time.
Instead of having to hire a developer to create a simple script (like that filtering example we looked at earlier), you could do it yourself.
Typically, being able to do something like that can save you days when producing a piece of content.
Add that up over many instances, and a content marketer who can code or design becomes even more valuable.
The second main benefit is that it will help you come up with better content ideas.
When you understand the role of design and coding in content, you start to see opportunities where they could be used to improve content.
Instead of just making a list post, you might think of creating a sortable list post where each item has its own custom icon.
But if you have no knowledge in these two areas, it’s never going to cross your mind unless something tells you to do it.
Helpful skill #1 – Coding: For the non-programmer, coding is very intimidating. It’s actually simpler than it looks (for most basic things).
In particular, for content marketing, you’ll want to learn three different languages:
Yes, technically HTML and CSS aren’t programming languages, but to a non-coder, they all appear similar.
The first two are the simplest and affect how your content shows up on a page.
You don’t need to become an expert, but you should be able to sort out simple problems.
For example, if a picture isn’t showing up correctly on a page, what do you do?
That’s a simple issue. You really want to avoid having to find someone who can help you fix it because that results in wasted hours.
Instead, you can go into the page source, find the error, and then fix it (in this case, the image width was wrong):
That fix should take less than a minute.
So, how do you learn these?
Take them one by one, and start with the Codecademy track for each of them:
If you complete each of those, you’ll be ahead of the majority of marketers.
Helpful skill #2 – Design: Design skills can be used for just about every piece of content.
Think of the number of times a custom image could improve your content. Probably at least a few times a post.
One option is to hire a freelance designer to create them, which isn’t a bad option.
However, it’s silly to be waiting for a freelancer when all you need is one simple picture.
You don’t need to be an expert, but you should have basic design skills.
I can show you 90% of what you need to know in a single post. And that post is my guide to creating custom images for your blog post without hiring a designer (like the one below).
6. Oh yeah, there’s one more thing that’s kind of important…
No, I didn’t forget it…
The final skill you need in order to be a great content marketer is a strong knowledge of content marketing.
Without that, you can’t put together a full effective strategy that produces results you want, no matter how well you write, research, adapt, etc.
This is where blogs like Quick Sprout and Content Marketing Institute come in. Short of having a great content marketer as a mentor, in-depth blog posts will be the best way to learn (along with paid courses if possible).
There are no shortcuts here either.
There are many areas of content marketing to learn about.
It will take continuous time and effort to learn all of these. I’d estimate at least three years for someone very committed to become an expert in all of these.
That doesn’t mean you’ll suck before you get to that point—you can still have a lot of success.
The important takeaway from this is that you need to make learning an integral part of your life, even when you get busy.
Being a content marketer is not easy.
You’re expected to wear a lot of hats and contribute to a business in a lot of ways.
While doing this, you need to be developing these 6 skills along the way.
If you do, you will see your value as a content marketer rising, and you will get to the top of the field in time.
If you stay committed to developing these skills, you’ll stay there too.
I have a few quick questions for you now: Which of these skills do you still need to improve? And are there any in particular that you need more detailed help with? Let me know in a comment below.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Today, solar power systems provide a highly effective way for communities to improve their chances for being better able to function in the case of potential widespread emergencies.
Communities must adapt to the many changing conditions and threats that can occur in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. Solar energy and renewable resources are key components to increasing both community adaptability and resilience.
Reduce Reliance on Fossil Fuels
Eventually, hydrocarbon fuels will become scarce, causing prices to skyrocket. It is only a matter of time before the country faces another fuel crisis. By adopting solar power systems, communities can protect themselves against future price volatility in the fossil fuel market.
Using solar energy to supplement or replace power from the electrical grid can reduce a community’s reliance on the unpredictable costs and business practices of utility companies. It can also lower energy costs substantially, which helps reduce future economic uncertainty.
Photovoltaic technology provides energy security, as local solar development ensures a reliable source of power, no matter what fuel crisis may arise.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
When a tornado, earthquake, flood or other natural disaster or emergency situation occurs, communities must be able to respond quickly with appropriate recovery efforts.
Lighting and communications are essential in the event of an emergency, as is power for critical operations. Solar power systems can provide electricity wherever and whenever it is needed.
Highway message signs and advisory radios powered by the sun can be used to convey important information. Photovoltaic vehicle laminates and portable solar generators can prepare communities to handle the effects of emergency or disaster situations.
Create Power Resilient Critical Facilities
Storms and other extreme weather events can knock the power out for days at a time.
Although hospitals and other critical facilities may have generators, the rest of the community can be left without energy. In addition, traditional generator power depends on the availability of fuel. Once the fuel supplies are gone, so is the electricity, leaving emergency shelters and mass care points without reliable sources of power.
Communities can use solar power to create critical facilities capable of meeting the public’s needs during and after an emergency situation. Medical centers and fire and police stations must be adaptable, functional and able to provide services throughout any crisis event.
Installing solar energy systems at these locations and at designated shelter areas will help ensure that emergency services are always able to respond to any disruptive event in the community.
Adopting solar power to address a growing community’s developing needs is of particular importance in lower-income areas, according to many experts. As PV power is renewable and cost-effective, solar energy can be used to bridge the gap between the poor and the well-off, helping to relieve more vulnerable populations from added suffering from the damaging aftereffects of a natural disaster or emergency situation.
Every community must address the matter of resilience now, to be adequately prepared for the future. Contact an experienced alternative energy expert in your area to learn more about how solar power systems can help to meet the changing needs of your community.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015
Thursday, November 26, 2015
It’s easy to waste hours every week on social media, doing things that could be automated…
…or at the very least done faster with the right tools.
Add up those few hours a week, and you’ll see that the average social media marketer easily wastes over 100 hours a year.
I’m guessing you have better things to do with your time than mess around on social media.
In this post, I’ll address one network in particular—Pinterest.
The massive, image-based social media site is one of the best for finding new customers:
The average user on Pinterest has money and is willing to spend it.
That being said, Pinterest isn’t for every business. Considering that Pinterest is dominated by American women (68% female), it works better for certain niches than for others.
If you’re not sure if Pinterest is right for your business, check out my complete guide to creating a social media strategy.
Assuming that Pinterest is a good fit for you, you want to make sure that you have the right tools for the job.
Tools can help you:
- save time
- get better results (more pins, repins, and traffic)
- be consistent (less effort on your part)
I’ve compiled a list of the 16 best Pinterest tools for social media marketers. I’ve divided them into four main categories.
You won’t need all of them, but if you pick one from each section, you’ll save a lot of time and get a lot more out of your time on Pinterest.
For posting content easily and more efficiently
The tools in this section all make your life easier by helping you post images to Pinterest faster.
Not only that, but most of them also provide some sort of a visual schedule, so you know if you’re posting as much as you’d like.
Let’s jump into tool #1…
1. Buffer: Buffer needs to be included in any list of social media tools for the big networks.
While it originally did not have support for Pinterest, it does now.
Buffer does a few things and does them really well. It allows you to:
- pin images automatically – Buffer will automatically pin content to your account when you tell it to (you have to supply the content).
- create a posting schedule – you tell Buffer which times of the day (and which days) you want to make posts.
- easily add images to your queue - Buffer pulls images from your queue in the order you add them. You can add images to your queue using the tool or browser extensions.
- post to multiple networks - although we’re concerned only with Pinterest here, you can also connect your Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn accounts. Then, you can tell Buffer to post the same image to any of those accounts as well.
After you’ve created a Buffer account, the first thing you want to do is connect your Pinterest account.
All you need to do is authenticate the app with a click of a button.
Next, you’ll want to head over to your schedule tab. Here, pick the days you’d like to post, the number of times you’d like to post each day, and specific times to post.
The final piece of the puzzle is to add content to your queue. From there, Buffer does all the hard work.
Like I mentioned before, you have a few different options to do this.
First, you can add the content through Buffer itself. Go to the content tab to see your existing queue, and then add a post into the text area. Make sure your Pinterest account is highlighted (which will allow you to pick a board to post to).
If you ever return to your queue, Buffer will show you a list of any content you’ve added, organized by the time it’s supposed to be posted.
Additionally, you can install the Buffer browser extension.
Once you do, you will see a “share image” button on any image you come across on the web. Click it, and a message composer will come up, which will allow you to customize the message and add it to your queue:
Finally, on top of allowing you to schedule pins automatically, Buffer will also show you the performance of each pin as well as your account overall. You can see the number of followers you’re gaining as well as the amount of engagement you’re getting on your pins:
2. Tailwind: Like Buffer, Tailwind is a tool that allows you to schedule pins.
However, it’s a tool specifically designed for Pinterest. This is a good thing if you only focus on Pinterest for your business. It’s a bad thing if you also use other networks because then you’ll need extra tools to handle them.
It also has a few extra features that you might find useful.
First, create your Tailwind account, and let it access your Pinterest account. It would also be a good idea to add the browser extension at this point.
Just like in Buffer, you can go to the settings and set your own schedule for posting.
Once you do, you can click on “create new pin” in your main schedule tab, which will bring up a window that is similar to what you’d see on Pinterest:
This same window will also pop up on any webpage if you click the Tailwind button that shows up on an image (if you’ve installed the extension).
Pick your board and description, and indicate whether you’d like to post it to Facebook or Twitter. It does have that feature even though it doesn’t support those networks beyond it.
At any time, you can return to your schedule tab and see the pins you have in your queue and when they’ll be posted.
You can also see a nice visual schedule in the right sidebar.
Once you’ve made some pins, you can go to the “pin inspector” (using the left side menu) and see how each individual pin performed. You can sort it by any engagement metric.
You can also dig in further and let Tailwind analyze all your boards to see which one gets the most engagement for each pin.
If you see that one board has a high engagement and virality score, you should focus more of your effort on it. Conversely, you may want to delete any low performing boards.
Overall, it’s a very complete tool and can replace 2-3 smaller Pinterest tools. There’s a lot more beyond the essentials I went over here.
3. ViralTag: This is another good option when it comes to scheduling pins, but it isn’t quite as in-depth as the first two options. But this could be a good thing if you’re just looking for the bare minimum.
The first thing you’ll want to do is create an account. Then, drag the ViralTag bookmarklet into your browser.
It creates a little bookmark on your bookmarks bar.
Whenever you’re on a page with images, you can click the bookmarklet, and a pop-up window will show you all the images on the page:
Click each image to add a checkmark to the top left corner (or click again to take it away).
If an image is checked, you’re telling ViralTag that you want to share that image.
After you click Next, you’ll have the option to choose which board to post the images to as well as to set a time and provide other image information:
You can always go back to your ViralTag account and change any of that information:
This tool is best for marketers who typically post images others have created (which is fine on Pinterest with attribution).
You can quickly add several images to your queue while you are browsing other boards on Pinterest.
4. IFTTT: IFTTT stands for “If this, then that.” It’s an automation tool that you can use in many areas of marketing.
Not only is it incredibly useful but it’s also free.
Here’s how it works:
- you define “this” - specify an action. It could be a post being published or something being shared. “This” is some sort of action.
- you define “that” – another action that you specify. When the “this” event occurs, the tool will automatically do the “that” action that you specified.
The combination of both is called a recipe. Here are a few examples:
You can use IFTTT with just about any website, including most social networks.
The great thing is that you don’t need to come up with recipes yourself. Chances are other marketers have already come up with and published the recipes you could benefit from.
Here are the top IFTTT recipes for Pinterest.
Let me show you how to set up a recipe once you find one that looks useful.
If you’re on Pinterest, you might also be using another image-based social channel—Instagram.
This recipe automatically posts any picture you post on Instagram onto a Pinterest board:
First, you’ll need to connect each channel. You only have to do this once for each account.
Click the “Connect” button, and give IFTTT access to each account.
Then, all you will see is an Add Recipe button:
Click this, and the recipe will be activated. That’s it!
5. Hootsuite: Hootsuite has been one of the top tools for social media marketers for years.
It’s received some criticism for not evolving as quickly as other tools, but it still has all the core features you’ll need.
Something that’s really cool is that Hootsuite can be integrated with other tools we’ve looked at when it comes to Pinterest.
For example, Hootsuite can be integrated with Tailwind.
You get to use all the features of both Tailwind and Hootsuite.
And if there’s one thing Hootsuite excels at, it’s letting you create a great dashboard.
As you can see from the picture above, you can get a lot of useful information on your screen, like a list of your scheduled pins and your calendar.
You can control which panels are shown on your account. Click “+ Add Stream” at the top of the dashboard, and choose from the many options.
The other common option for Hootsuite integration is ViralTag. Again, you can schedule pins, see how your recent pins are performing, and edit any scheduled pins before they go live.
Hootsuite by itself isn’t a great option, but when you combine it with ViralTag or Tailwind, it can be. It’s especially useful if you like what those other tools can do but don’t like their interface.
Make the most of Pinterest
This next batch of tools help you use Pinterest more effectively (and more efficiently).
If you use them as intended, you will be able to get more pins, more traffic, and a higher conversion rate.
6. PinGroupie: One of the most underrated tactics for getting traffic from Pinterest is becoming a part of group boards.
Any member of the group can contribute to such a board.
Some boards have tens of thousands of members, and a large chunk of those are active members.
When you pin something on one of those boards, it’s automatically going to be seen by thousands of users. If you’re posting interesting images, you can regularly get hundreds of pins.
And all of this is without a following of your own.
The tough part is finding these groups. After you do, you usually have to send a request to join. As long as your account looks natural, you typically get accepted.
PinGroupie is a simple tool that makes finding groups much easier.
It’s basically a database of high-activity Pinterest groups. You can search the database for groups that fit your niche.
There are a few different ways you can use the tool:
- specify a category - using the category drop-down menu, you can pick a broad category you want to see. This is best if you have an authority site that covers many topics in a niche.
- filter by title – you can enter a word in the “title” box and then click the “filter” button to see groups with that word in the title.
- filter by description - you can also enter a word in the “description” box and click the “filter” button to see groups with that word in the description. This is better in most cases since descriptions have more words than titles.
All three ways can work, so try them all, and make a list of groups to join.
After you get accepted to them, make sure you’re not spamming them with your own content. Contribute other content on a regular basis.
7. PinAlerts: Pinterest does something neat. When someone repins something you originally pinned, it sends you a notification.
That allows you to do things like follow that person in the hopes that they follow you back. This leads to more pins in the future.
You know what would be even more useful? Getting a notification every time someone pinned something from your website.
If you’re using high quality pictures in your blog content, many of your readers will pin them.
If you knew when they did this, you could not only follow them but also repin their original pin of your image and possibly comment as well.
If you haven’t guessed yet, this is a tool that sends you a notification when someone pins something from your site.
There are three steps to set it up.
First, you enter your domain into the tool. Then, you choose what kind of alerts you’d like to receive. Finally, you press the button to create it (hard, I know).
It’s not pretty, but it works.
8. LoveList: This tool is really useful if you find yourself in stores a lot.
It was originally created when a couple was trying to put together a wedding registry but couldn’t find an easy way to do it.
So, they created this tool.
You scan the barcode of products in stores with your phone, and the tool will automatically pin pictures of those products to a Pinterest board (that you specify).
This tool won’t be for everyone. However, if you run a business about a hobby, let’s say home decorating, you might find yourself in decorating stores often, especially if you’re really passionate about it.
You might as well make the most of your time and load up your Pinterest account while you’re doing it.
9. Loop88: Some marketers are great at building social media accounts and getting highly engaged followers.
However, it’s not always easy to convert that into profit.
This tool was created to connect popular pinners to advertisers.
Fair warning: To get accepted, you will need a fairly popular account.
They work with brands of all sizes, including big ones. For example, the TV show “The Mindy Project” wanted to build brand awareness.
They paid pinners (through this tool) to post quotes from the show:
I don’t know the exact payouts from this tool, but I think a moderately popular account could make an extra few hundred dollars a month.
It’s just another way to generate some revenue with your social media efforts without too much extra work.
Get more shares and traffic with these tools
Let’s shift directions a little bit…
Now I want to share some tools that will help you get more pins and overall traffic from Pinterest.
Considering these are two of the most important metrics when it comes to Pinterest marketing, these tools are pretty useful.
10. SumoMe Image Sharer: This tool is actually a website plugin that will take you just a few minutes to install.
However, it can lead to hundreds or even thousands of extra pins over time. Oh, and it’s free.
When a reader of your blog sees an amazing picture on your website, what do they do?
In most cases, nothing.
Even if they have a Pinterest account, only a small portion of those readers will think to share the image.
Why? Because nothing prompts them to make the connection that this picture might be a good one to pin.
Additionally, some won’t pin it because they’re lazy.
You’re missing out on extra pins and traffic because of this.
The image sharer tool allows you to add floating buttons to all your images.
You’ve likely seen it before on other blogs.
Now, readers of your blog can just click the Pinterest button, allowing them to post an image in under 30 seconds.
You can also add other network buttons to your images, but typically the Pinterest button will work best.
11. Pinterest widgets: Sometimes, we look to other tools to do some extra things we need. Pinterest actually has a really useful widget creator tool that can create attractive widgets for your website.
There’s no need to find other tools to use if you’re looking to highlight your Pinterest account or recent pins somewhere on your website (usually the sidebar).
You can pick from a variety of different widgets in the tool. Click one of the boxes to select a widget.
In the example below, I picked a board:
You add the URL of the board and pick a size, and then you can see what it will look like in the preview.
After, it will generate a code that you can copy and paste into your website.
You can also feature your Pinterest profile as a whole or as a single pin, or you can create pin and follow buttons.
The default design will follow the standard Pinterest color scheme, but you can always edit the CSS to create a custom display.
12. Rich pins validator: On top of regular pins, it’s also possible to create “rich pins.”
These pins stand out among regular pins and typically get extra shares and engagement (Target got 70% more traffic with rich pins).
These pins consist of an image and also have useful information for users.
Here’s an example of a film rich pin:
You can see why that would stand out from just an image of the movie cover as a regular pin.
On top of movies, you can also create rich pins for:
In order to get rich pins to show up when you pin content from your site (or someone else does), you need to have open graph (OG) schema markup on your articles.
Once you do, Pinterest will pull information from those meta tags to use.
The easiest way to do this is by using the SEO plugin by Yoast.
Go to the social settings tab in the plugin, and then go to the “Facebook” tab first. Check the “Add open graph meta data” (both Facebook and Pinterest use the same ones).
Next, go to the Pinterest tab in the settings.
Here, click the link to “verify your site with Pinterest.” This will take you to Pinterest to get a meta tag to add to your site. Add this tag into the space here, and save changes.
Some meta tags will be added to posts automatically.
However, you’ll also want to go into your posts (in the WordPress editor) and scroll down past the content.
You’ll see a box for “Yoast SEO” and a tab for “Social” with a few meta tag fields:
Fill them out for Facebook, and Pinterest will take them when appropriate.
Now back to the tool: I suppose we’re looking at two tools together here. On top of the Yoast plugin, you can now use the rich pin validator.
This will allow you to input a URL from your site into the URL debugger, and it will tell you if everything is set up okay or not.
If all is well, you’ll get a success message:
Create high quality images that get more pins
The final category of tools can help you get even more pins.
To get pins and repins, the main thing you need is great images.
These tools will help you create those images even if you’re not much of a designer.
13. Snappa: You are a marketer, not a designer. While it’s good to have some design skills, chances are you don’t have the time to master Photoshop.
With modern tools, you can still produce awesome pictures perfect for Pinterest.
Snappa is one of them. It’s actually designed specifically for marketers.
When you create an account, you’ll see that you can pick from different image sizes:
In this case, we want the Pinterest pin size, of course.
This will bring up a new screen with different templates on it. You can either choose one of these or create an image from scratch:
This will bring you to the actual image editing window.
Using the menu at the top, you can control what shows up in the left panel. When you click something in the left panel (like a background or graphic), it will be added to your image on the right:
The beauty of this tool is how easy it is to edit the image.
You can click any element and then drag it to move it, drag a corner to resize it, or press Delete to delete it.
If you use the templates, you can easily make your own custom images in less than 5 minutes each. And they look great.
14. Canva: Canva is a lot like Snappa, but it came first. It’s not specifically designed for marketers, but it still has a fair number of templates that will be useful to you.
For pins, click the “More” button under the “Create a design” section on the home page (once you’re signed in):
Then, click “Pinterest Graphic”:
Again, when you’re editing your image, you’ll see two main parts: your image on the right and options on the left.
Start by going to the “layouts” tab on the left, which has a bunch of great templates to choose from:
In addition, you can add text and graphics or change the background using the other tabs.
Of course, you can edit the image itself on the right. Refer to this guide for more detailed instructions on creating your own images using Canva.
15. Pablo: Canva and Snappa are both amazing and simple to use tools. Pablo is even simpler.
If you doubt your design skills and want the easiest option possible, this is it.
This tool was created by the Buffer team, who obviously understand the needs of social media marketers.
On the side menu, choose the “Tall” picture size, which is the perfect size for Pinterest.
Then, pick a background from the left side menu:
Click on the text, and add a custom quote or message your audience will like.
Obviously, this tool is a bit more limited than the others, but it’s a great way to make beautiful pictures with quotes on them, which often get a ton of pins and comments.
16. Picmonkey: Sometimes, you will find a picture you’d like to share, but it doesn’t look good enough to pin.
That’s where a tool such as Picmonkey can be useful. You can change all aspects of the picture such as:
- direction (rotation)
On top of those useful editing features, you can also add filters to enhance the look of pictures (just don’t go overboard with them).
Click the little flask icon on the left menu, and you’ll get a list of different filters. Click on a filter to apply it to the image on the right:
Pinterest is one of the best platforms for social media marketers.
However, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best return on your time and effort.
I’ve shown you 16 awesome tools you can use to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your Pinterest marketing.
I don’t expect you to use them all, but it’d be a good idea to try a few at a time until you determine which ones fit well into your marketing.
I’d also like to hear about any great tools I missed in this post, so leave me a comment below and let me know about them.